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“Postcards From The Future” – the future we’ve lost? Or might yet have?


Finally, FINALLY, after many delays and frustrations (mentioning no names, but if anyone from FedEx is reading this, you’re RUBBISH!!!! I was in on many of the occasions you supposedly tried to deliver my package, you lying ****s. And I was in at work on the morning you supposedly tried to deliver it there too. I can smell your pants on fire from here…), this morning I watched the short, independant movie “Postcards From The Future“. And it has left me feeling… sigh… all sorts of things. Sitting here, writing this just a couple of hours before I have to leave and go to work I feel lost. Sad. Inspired. Frustrated. Angry.

Very angry.


Well, the movie – which I’m just going to call “Postcards” from now on ‘cos I honestly can’t be bothered typing out its full title every time! – tells the story of one man’s role in the opening up of the solar system to manned exploration and exploitation. At the start of the movie our hero – who isn’t the usual kick-ass, muscle-bound, square-jawed hero spacer, but is just an ordinary, everyday guy, an engineer who (at least initially) sees working in space as just a job that takes him away from his beloved wife and family – is sent to the first small outpost on the Moon to help with its growth and expansion, and he doesn’t exactly fall in love with it or the Moon.


He hates the lack of resources, the isolation and loneliness, and finds the Base’s military CO far too testosterone-drenched for his own good. But our hero is a hard worker, and soon he has the job in hand, and thanks to his efforts the base is soon operating very well, and its expansion begins in earnest. With a fully-functioning Moon Base operating, private companies start to exploit the Moon too, and before we know it there is a space elevator working, and human presence spreading across the Moon…

As the movie progresses our hero becomes involved in other projects, such as the manned exploration of Mars and, ultimately, a manned mission to Titan. His daughter follows in his footsteps and joins him on the Moon, and then on Mars, and eventually they fly to Titan together…

“Postcards” is obviously a labour of love, the kind of movie only a lifelong space enthusiast could make. Every frame drips with a fascination and passion for space exploration. Ok, so in places it’s cheesier than a supertanker full of Cheddar, and the dialogue in some scenes is clunkier than a rusty Transformer and makes George Lucas’ dialogue seem like Shakespeare, but it’s heart is as big as a blue whale’s, and any space enthusiast who watches it is drawn, within minutes, into its world.

There are some truly beautiful scenes in “Postcards”: our hero looking down on the Moon from a shuttle window and smiles at the sight of countless lights – outposts and traffic – flashing below him… the first manned Mars expedition blasting off from the surface of the Moon… and more besides.


There are also, of course, some scenes that had the science geek in me thinking “Oh come on…!” – how many times do we have to tell people that Titan’s atmosphere is too thick, too murky and mucky to let Saturn be visible from its surface?!?! – but the film is so moving and charming that they’re easily forgiveable.

Watching “Postcards” left me very angry, as I said, because it’s impossible to watch it without thinking “If only we’d actually done this…”. If we hadn’t run away from the Moon, crying like a kid that had fallen off a swing, we really could have had a Moon base by now, and there would be an outpost on Mars too. But that future is gone, that timeline never materialised, so all we can do is look to the future – and “Postcards” provides us with a tantalising, dizzying, wonderful glimpse of the future we could have if we set our minds to it. Moon bases, manned missions to Mars, expeditions to the outer planets, we really could have all those things if we stopped ****ing about with all the political crap and realised that our species’ future is in space, that really is the bottom line.

It’s no exaggeration to say that we’re at a very decisive point in the exploration of space. The shuttle is retiring soon, and no replacement is going to be ready to fly when it does. The future of the ISS is in doubt, and I’ve lost count of the number of “It will be de-orbited by…” dates that are flying about. Unless the money, political will and engineering might are found to take another step forwards, there’s a very real danger that instead of reaching out for Mars, or at least the Moon, we will exile ourselves in Low Earth Orbit for another generation. We might even begin the retreat from space altogether, just like the Chinese famously retreated from world exploration and trade all those centuries ago.

Last week the Augustine Commission – currently examining the future of human spaceflight in the US – held a high profile meeting in Washington, at which they listened to many speakers, from famous scientists like Steve Squyres to Keri Bean, a dedicated and passionate space exploration enthusiast and advocate who fills the Twitterverse with her thoughts and adventures. The Commission also heard from Bob Zubrin, one of the most passionate advocates of sending people to Mars, preferably as soon as possible. As usual, Bob’s presentation was excited to the point of breathlesness, and with gushing enthusiasm he described how – and why – NASA should send people to Mars. I watched his presentation live on NASA TV, and found him as inspiring and convincing as always – I still want to slap him for calling the Mars roversd “pathetic” in his most recent book, even tho I know it was just the book’s narrator speaking, not Bob himself – so I was angry and dismayed when the Commission’s Chairman dismissed him with a glib “We’ll read your book…” 

They don’t get it, I thought sadly, watching Bob leave the podium, they just don’t get it. They might understand the finances, the budget, the practicalities… but they don’t get the beauty, the drama, the vision

I tell you, Mr Augustine, and all the members of his Commission, should be led into a cinema, superglued to seats and made to watch “Postcards” in all its glory, because it might show them the true promise of space exploration, and open their eyes to just what we could achieve Out There.


P.S. A huge thank you to my UMSF mate Dan, for sending me the DVD, which I couldn’t find here in the UK.